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June 2010 Archives
The Boy Who Climbed Into the Moon by David Almond, reviewed by Philip Ardagh
The Boy Who Climbed Into the Moon is charming without being twee; quirky without being whimsical; and genuinely thought-provoking without being clever-clever. It celebrates words and ideas and makes one look anew at the world from an ever-so-slightly-different perspective. It's a novel of small ideas which are, of course, so often the biggest ideas of all. PHILIP ARDAGH
Finally able to link to the Awards' official site. It had been unavailable all evening, the servers possibly not being able to cope with the surge of traffic generated by Neil Gaiman's Carnegie win.
Even now the pages are clearly very much still under construction.
A 'See video from the ceremony' link, for example, leads to a COMING SOON page...
A group photo provided for ACHUKA by Nina Douglas, Orion's Publicity Manager, from yesterday's summer party, which I was unable to attend this year:
Left to right are: Linda Newbery, Michelle Paver, Francesca Simon, Annabel Pitcher, Caroline Lawrence, Liz Kessler, Lauren St John, Sally Gardner, Joe Friedman, Jamie Rix, Joanne Owen and Marcus Sedgwick.
The Australian illustrator's website...
She has won the Greenaway Medal for her illustrations of Harry and Hopper
on Carnegie and Greenaway Medal winners, Neil Gaiman and Freya Blackwood.
Nicolette Jones makes her summer selection from across the age range. I'm pleased to see eye to eye with regard to
Marcus Sedgwick's Revolver
although not exactly heart-warming, is one of the finest and best-constructed page-turners of the year. It opens with a boy mourning the corpse of his father in a hut in the middle of an icy Swedish wilderness. A menacing stranger arrives and the circumstances leading up to this moment are slowly revealed: the meeting of two men during an Alaskan gold rush and the unfinished business between them. Tense, succinct, evocative and ingenious, and one to haunt you long after the summer is over. NICOLETTE JONES
Mary Hoffman reviews Mortlock by Jon Mayhew
Before telling us what she thinks about this book, Hoffman includes a paragraph speaking up for crows and telling us that they are in fact "delightful", "shy", "respectable" and the victims of a prejudiced press.
Mayhew, who is later in the review described as "still finding his true authorial voice", can at least take solace in the fact that Hoffman's introduction places him in a direct line of crow caricaturists from Shakespeare through Edgar Allan Poe.
Corvids have a bad press in language and literature. A raven "croaks the fatal entrance of Duncan" into Macbeth's castle, to "rook" is to cheat someone, The Crow is a horror movie and Edgar Allan Poe's "grim, ungainly, ghastly, gaunt and ominous bird of yore", the Raven, quoth "Nevermore!" Yet in reality they are delightful companions, very shy and easily disturbed if their daily routine changes - more respectable citizens than shrieking outlaws. Jon Mayhew clearly writes from the influence of gothic literature rather than direct experience when he makes the terrifying "aunts" in Mortlock the physical embodiment of crows. MARY HOFFMAN
If Helen Grant was at Puffin's splendid, albeit slightly claustrophobic, 70th Anniversary bash I shall be very disappointed not to have spotted her name badge, since I am so enjoying The Glass Demon - just as much as I enjoyed her first novel. She is without question one of the most exciting new Puffin authors writing for an older audience.
It was a pleasure to bump into, perchance for the second time in a single day, a blue-jacketed Ed Vere, who I had seen much earlier at the official launch of a new East Sussex Mobile Library Van, which Vere's large-scale illustrations so effectively adorn.
Vere was guest of honour at a local primary school, where he guided a group of children (and a leading local councillor), sitting in the breezy June air inside an open marquee, in a drawing tutorial, showing them how to create his character Mr Big.
I had been so intent on having a full camera battery for the night's event that it was still sitting in its charger at home, so that all my photos of Ed Vere's event had to be taken on my phone.
I always feel a tremendous sense of privilege at being present at Puffin's annual party, especially when I look around and take mental note of faces apparently no longer on the guest list. As this was such a special anniversary it was noticeable how many faces from Puffin teams of earlier times were present. As for Francesca Dow herself, it is now more than half a decade since she took over from Philippa Milnes-Smith, and she seems so at home in and genuinely in love with the role one can imagine her staying at Puffin into old age and, at Puffin's first centenary in 2040, being as big a Puffin luminary as Kaye Webb. When she said, in her speech, that as a child she called all her books Puffins, you could believe her. It was a little bit harder to credit her assertion that Puffins are still the only books that matter.
I had bumped into Allan Ahlberg, checking though his speech prompt cards, in Sketch's sci-fi toilet complex, so I knew he was going to make a reference to the white-egg art-installment quality of them in his talk. I did not know that he would (accurately as it happens) say that the venue (at least the main room, a vast windowless square with projected Puffin imagery on all sides) made him feel as if "sex scenes" were about to appear on the walls. His talk was gently delivered, perfectly and wittily pitched.
Charlie Higson's reading from a printed out list of tweets sent to his Twitter account drew to a close just before the witless tedium of the contributions made the audience restless. Eoin Colfer delighted the crowd with a sequence of inhouse gags.
Each of the speeches had made generous references to the great Puffin titles of the past. It would have been good, in hindsight, given his presence at the occasion, to herald the great Morris Gleitzman, without doubt one of the major children's authors of the past twenty years and Puffin can deservedly congratulate themselves for publishing him continuously and enthusiastically throughout that period.
The venue was -- especially in comparison with the top floor of Tate Modern where the Puffin Party was held in 2007 and 2008 (there was no event last year) -- a beast of a place for photography. The professional photographer covering the event agreed with me. Not a single window letting in natural light, and disco-style lighting constantly brightening and dimming. Mostly dimming. It will be a while before I sift through the snaps and post the picture gallery, so bear with me.
Party-goers took away a goody-bag containing a copy of Puffin by Design by Phil Baines.
Melvin Burgess, writing in the Guardian's Family section this weekend...
My advice to anyone thinking of breaking up the family in which their kids have been brought up from the start would be that it will cause more mayhem than you dare to imagine. Don't think for a second that your children are going to be happier because you split up; unless your partner is a genuine bastard, they are probably not. And if you're thinking of starting a family, does your local community, family or otherwise, think your chosen partner fits the job description? What are your support networks? Don't try it till you've lived in the same place for three years at least...
The 2010 BGHB winners:
Fiction and Poetry
When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead (Lamb/Random House)
Marching for Freedom: Walk Together, Children, and Don't You Grow Weary by Elizabeth Partridge (Viking)
I Know Here by Laurel Croza, illustrated by Matt James (Groundwood)
The 2010 Honor Books:
Fiction and Poetry
The Dreamer by Pam Muñoz Ryan, illustrated by Peter Sís (Scholastic)
A Conspiracy of Kings by Megan Whalen Turner (Greenwillow)
Anne Frank: Her Life in Words and Pictures by Menno Metselaar and Ruud van der Rol (Roaring Brook/Flash Point)
Smile by Raina Telgemeier (Scholastic/Graphix)
It's a Secret! by John Burningham (Candlewick)
The Lion & the Mouse by Jerry Pinkney (Little, Brown)
Philip Ardagh reviews Sparks by Ally Kenen
With her latest book, Sparks, longlisted for the Guardian children's fiction prize, Ally Kennen has abandoned a key element of her award-winning formula. Unlike previous titles Beast, Berserk and Bedlam, this offering doesn't begin with the letter B. It does, however, still contain all the ingredients of a mighty fun read. Sparks also has a subtitle, one which neatly sums up the premise of the entire book: "How to give Grandpa a Viking funeral". PHILIP ARDAGH
Marcus Sedgwick reviews Rich and Mad by William Nicholson
I've rarely read a book that as swiftly and skilfully brings half a dozen characters vividly to mind; each of them convincingly and sympathetically created. Rich and Maddy's journeys are delightful and joyous and, despite some difficult moments, this is that rare thing, a happy book. And yet it is the end of their journey, and ultimately the raison d'être for the book, which brings us to the elephant in the room; the sex scenes....
...maybe the problem for Rich and Mad is that the final scene in the book is, after all, its whole point. Take it away, and what would be left? How else would you handle it? Maybe the answer is to be found in the old-fashioned way, with a good solid set of ellipses . . .MARCUS SEDGWICK